Terre des Hommes joined Unicef and UEFA for a panel debate which focused on how child rights violations must be prevented at Mega Sporting Events, such as the World Cup or Olympics.

The debate, which took place during the 2017 Soccerex Global Convention in Manchester, followed the recent commitments made by sports governing bodies to respect and preserve human rights in the wake of abuses during preparations for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Brazil, and other events yet to take place such as the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 World Cup finals.

The commitments include FIFA incorporating UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights into its statutes, and the IOC and UEFA updating host city contracts with human rights criteria for events from 2024. The panel discussed if and how these criteria are being implemented.

Piara Powar, Executive Director for FARE Network, chaired the panel which included Marc Joly, Head of Terre des Hommes’ Children Win campaign; Patrick Gasser, Head of Social Responsibility for UEFA; Guy Price, Head of Sport for Unicef UK, and John Wroe, Chief Executive of Street Child United.

Marc Joly said: “Children Win is a campaign run by Terre des Hommes and aims to have Mega Sporting Events, such as the Olympic Games or the World Cup or the Euros, organised in a way that they respect human rights and child rights in particular.

“We’re at Soccerex to bring that important conversation that has started two years ago about having sports governing bodies picking up the issue on respect for human rights and child rights. It’s about talking to the sector of football about this important initiative, and how they can contribute to the changes on the ground.

“The responsibility is shared throughout the various stakeholders that are involved with a Mega Sporting Event, and there are many layers of responsibility as well. So I think each one in its position has to contribute to the aim we all want, which is basically having Mega Sporting Events organised in such a way that it keeps its inspiring power and has its risk or the negative sides being mitigated and dealt with throughout the process.”

Guy Price added: “I think the really important thing being done is they are listening and they are prepared to engage. So the likes of FIFA and UEFA and the IOC, and who we work with, the Commonwealth Games Federation, are at the table and are prepared to listen.

“And I think that one or two of them, particularly the Commonwealth Games Federation, are moving beyond that now and are starting to really embed child and human rights criteria and considerations into the event bidding, the event decision-making and hosting criteria.

“The next step is to move from that to concrete action and implementation so we can get to a point where a Mega Event from the very outset has been designed and delivered with child rights and human rights, right at its heart, right at the centre.”

However, the decision this week by UEFA to award the 2019 Europa League final to Baku, and the Super Cup in the same year to Istanbul, demonstrates that there remains plenty of work to do before the commitments made ‘on paper’ translate into concrete action.

The entire panel discussion is accessible here.

Soccerex Love Football Zone left Piara Powar, Guy Price, Marc Joly, Patrick Gasser, John Wroe © Soccerex/Brownlee
Patrick Gasser from UEFA © Brownlee/Imagine Images for Soccerex)
Marc Joly from Terre des Hommes ©Soccerex/Brownlee
Piara Powar from FARE network © Soccerex/Brownlee
Guy Price from UNICEF © Soccerex/Brownlee
John Wroe from Street Child United © Soccerex/Brownlee
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